more sailing

au một thời gian khá dài “lu bu” vì công việc, cảm thấy đã “ù lỳ”, “bất động” quá lâu, nên khởi động lại “bài test” thể lực cũ: đạp xe trong khoảng 6h từ Sài Gòn đi Vũng Tàu và chơi các loại thuyền nguyên ngày hôm sau: buồm, chèo, kayak, ván, monohull, catamaran, etc… đủ loại đủ kiểu! Cám ơn các anh em VTSA vì một ngày vận động tuyệt vời! 😀

Cảm thấy có sự tiến bộ rõ rệt về thể lực và sức bền, hành trình xe đạp Sài Gòn – Vũng Tàu chỉ mất đúng 5h 30′ thay vì hơn 6, 7 tiếng như trước, cảm giác như không phải cố gắng quá nhiều, chơi thuyền được nguyên ngày và cũng không cảm thấy “đuối” lúc cuối ngày như trước! 😀 Chỉ hơi tiếc là một ngày hơi ít gió, không “cảm” được nhiều hơn về lá buồm!

grandiose delusion

ôi nghĩ rằng mình bị chứng Delusion of grandeur dạng nhẹ! Không biết tiếng Việt gọi là gì, nhưng đó là một loại rối loạn tâm lý lưỡng cực, kiểu như con mèo soi gương thấy mình là con cọp ấy! 😬 Tự biết có bệnh cũng nhiều năm rồi, lần đầu để ý thấy là khi đang chèo trên vịnh Ghềnh Rái nhìn về Núi Lớn, Núi Nhỏ – Vũng Tàu, cảm giác 2 ngọn núi bé chút xíu, chỉ cần đưa tay ra búng một cái là cả 2 sẽ bay đi mất. Chỉ mình tôi ngồi trên cái vỏ đậu phộng giữa biển khơi, cái cảm giác ấy thật tự do tự tại! 😬

a sailor’s wedding

unique event in the Vietnamese recreational boating community, a community that is so small that even a kayaker like me have chances to know other players of other water sports such as sailboat, SUP, motor canoes, free or Scuba diving… And that’s the wedding of my friend, who helps founding and running VTSA – Vũng Tàu sailing club. Assembled together for the parade is 4 big sailboats, 2 monohulls and 2 catamarans.

A small parade with those 4 sailboats, about 20 nautical miles, running from Vũng Tàu city to VietsoPetro resort, where the wedding celebration and party were held on the beach. The weather was so fine, though winds are a bit weak. Taking parts in the parade are the bride and groom, their sailor friends and some invited guesses. Such a special event, and such joyful moments among our friendly circle that we could never forget.

TIKI 30′ Veronique

major event in the small circle of Vietnamese recreational boating people. The christening of the 30 feet catamaran Veronique, locally built here after James Wharram’s TIKI 30′ design. Gathering in, last Saturday late afternoon party were various men and women from different traits of life: boat designers, boat builders, professional or amateur skippers and sailors from the smallest type of boat (that is me, a… kayaker 😀) to the biggest… Such friendly, warm and fascinating meeting moments!

Vũng Tàu sailing – 4

erene – 2 is almost done, but the trialling would be continued on for quite some times. Now having some free time – slots to turn to sailing, joining my “sailing comrades” again in Vũng Tàu. North winds are turning much stronger, and though we’re sailing in a somewhat protected bay, the wind gusts reach 25+ knot, and waves above 1m.

The Baba (Vietnamese word for a specie of turtle) trimaran has been overhauled for repair and being refitted, there’re some works required still on the boat. It was such a wonderful experiences, and a very wet ride, when waves wash all over the boards. Looking at the stern wake in the clip below, we were going easily at 12+ knot! 😀

vũng tàu sailing – 3

here’s always something new to learn about sailing, and this weekend, we practice the MOB (man over board) situation. Supposed a crew member accidentally falls out of the boat, and we need to come back and rescue him / her under sail as soon as possible. Everyone takes turn taking the skipper role and rehearsing the MOB procedures.

But actually, most fun comes with the smallest type of boat, the Optimist. I had a very good time learning some of my crash courses with it, a tiny, but responsive boat, which gives you the right feeling about how to handle a boat in different wind and water situations. Do it the hard way is the motto I firmly believe to be ultimately true and beneficial! 😀

vũng tàu sailing – 2

his weekend, we lower the trimaran’s mast to add a new tang, riveted down near the mast head for the spinnaker (replacing the weak pad – eye that has been blown away by strong wind last week), make some other minor fixes before raising the mast again. We also installed a new spinnaker retrieval line and chute. The work continues pass noon.

Then after a small lunch, we head out to the sea. There’re only some very light winds today, the sea is quite calm, but that’s also a chance to fly and test all sails. The whole thing works perfectly, hoisting and retrieving the spinnaker are quite smooth, together with main sail and jib, enabled the trimaran to carry 6 men out for a pleasureful gentle promenade! 😀

vũng tàu sailing – 1

ven greater sailing experiences the last weekend, when we had a chance to sail a slightly larger and heavier trimaran on Vũng Tàu sea. It takes sometimes to rig a new spinnaker, but with just only a mainsail hoisted (the jib is still furled), the boat is already like a restrained horse, ready to show off her real power once the mooring line is released.

With two daggerboards, the trimaran points quite closed to wind, though some few times, it lacks a bit of momentum for a quick, decisive tack, or maybe our handling (of an entry – level sailor) has not been smooth enough. Nevertheless, there were quite a lot of wind and waves that afternoon, and there were plenty of fun riding them obviously! 😀

vũng tàu, june 2014

his has been in my TODO list for quite some time, but for various reasons, couldn’t get it done till now. To the present day, I’ve accumulated more than 1,000 nmi under my belt with Hello World – 1 & 2 (nearly 1,900 km, as logged by my Garmin), but that’s only the 20 ~ 25 km paddling around my home. I need something longer to testify my endurance; and for the last 2 months, I’ve been preparing for this 60 km paddling trip to Vũng Tàu: physical exercising, equipments, plan A, plan B, etc… It just comes the time to… get your paddles wet!

My Hello World – 2 kayak is a true player on rivers, but it’s surely no performer at sea. A 14 footer, it’s quite unsuitable to be deployed on longer journeys, so I need to make careful planning. The trip will be completed in 3 legs, approximately 20 km each, the first 2 will follow Sài Gòn and Lòng Tàu rivers, the last leg would pass Gành Rái bay to reach Vũng Tàu on ‘open sea’. And indeed, I have no ‘plan B’, no camping gears, no food and drink for a 2nd day of paddling, no signaling devices… it just has to be done, 60 km in a single day, in a single try!

Leg 1

Wake up at 3:30 AM, I carefully check the gears, load the kayak, have a big breakfast, and at 4:30 AM, I depart. Right at the first paddling stroke, it begins to rain, cats and dogs! And it continues to rain lightly for the next several hours, but that’s good really. Silently pass by many fishing boats, some was sleeping, some was watching a FIFA World Cup’s live football match! Heavily loaded, I make my way through the misty, dark water with a pace around 6 ~ 6.5 km/h. At 5:30 AM, the Garmin indicates a minor rise in speed, ~ 7.5 km/h, it’s the tide’s coming into play!

6:00 AM, as the dawn was breaking, I steadily made 8 ~ 9 km/h, 6:45 AM, I was making a comfortable 9.5 ~ 10.5 km/h riding. The tide plays quite a role in my planning, it should help to conquer the first 2 legs as fast as I can, reserving stamina for the last troublesome leap. Velocity then increases to 11 km/h for a short while, momentarily reaches 12 km/h, woohoo… I finished the 1st leg in 3 hours with little resting time, reaching Tam Thôn Hiệp crossroad, the southern most outskirt of Sài Gòn, beyond this point is Cần Giờ mangrove biosphere reserve.

Leg 2

8:00 AM, after a short break, I start the 2nd leg, which traverses the Cần Giờ mangrove forest to reach the sea. The Garmin instructs me confidently through this complex maze of rivers and canals, making ‘bip – bip’ sound in approximation of each turn point (the planned route was made on computer and transferred to the device). I’m a bit in hurry as I know I don’t have a large time frame to utilize the tide, in all, less than 4, 5 hours or so. 8:30 AM, the tide will finish lowering in Vũng Tàu area, though for inland water, there’s still a delay effect.

Speed drops gradually along this 2nd leg, and at 10:00 AM, I was returning to 6 ~ 6.5 km/h, as the tide was coming to a complete stop. The last few kilometers of this leg was a bit difficult, cause although my arms and shoulders showed little sign of tiredness, my butt was in great pains after hours of idleness. Then it was a moment of thrill, to stand here and watch over the large calm estuary where the river joins the sea! Another leg done, an hour of resting, lying leisurely in the boat, watching the sea, having lunch, and making some selfies! 😀

Leg 3

Right at noon, I start the final leap. I was having a good day, it’s heavily cloudy, the sea is quite calm, small waves, south – west light wind at 2, 3 on Beaufort scale coming to my convenience from starboard ‘broad reach’ or ‘beam reach’, Vũng Tàu‘s mountains are clearly visible across the big bay. I decided to start as soon as I can, fearing the regular afternoon tropical gales and rains could bring much trouble later on. Switch the Garmin to compass mode, keep the bearing at 125 degrees for several hours, this gonna be just a piece of cake! 😀

The following hours turned out to be not easy indeed! I begin to feel pains for my hands, the waves have hampered my efforts and reduced speed into the 4.5 ~ 5.5 km/h range. I have not a single moment of worry, but rather a kind of tranquility in my mind while navigating this immense sphere. I stop for a while having an nice talk with a local fisherman, then keeping on the straight line to target. On starboard side then seen the Cần Giờ Aval lighthouse (Vietnamese: hải đăng Bóng Trắng). Then at 4:30 PM, landed in Vũng Tàu at the precise pre – planned spot.

Return

Terra firma eventually, my 12 hours of paddling completed with flying colors! 😀 Nothing more to expect for the day, I go for dinner, then back to the hotel and have another 12 hours of sleep! Next morning, I was messing around the harbors, watching the fishing boats, then at noon, load my kayak onto a rented truck and return to Sài Gòn. My arms are still having some little pain as I’m typing this, but the feeling is really pleasant. It could be a small thing to others, but a little real achievement for me! Another milestone in my boating progress!

The trip helps rectifying some defects and shortcomings on boat building and boating equipments. It’s only in these longer trips that I would find out what gears, food, drink, clothing, etc… should I have, what improves and accessories I could do for my boats. Yet Hello World – 2, at 14 feet, still belongs to the recreational class, it’s not a real expeditional sea kayak by design… The trip also helps consolidating my understanding and experiences on what I should prepare to make successful future sea crossings and longer passages into mare liberum 😀.

Epilogue

The Sài GònVũng Tàu route is crowded in maritime traffic, big boats from a few thousand to a few dozen thousand tons come and go every few minutes. It’s a real risk that your tiny boat could be overseen and overrun by those giants, as I was ‘near – missed’ by a huge freighter at great speed by just 50 ~ 70 m in one case. I should have an VHF radio to communicate with them to avoid collision. The waves created by those boats, though could be as high as 1 ~ 1.5 m, are not dangerous actually, as they are well patterned and well behaved.

Routes plotted with Google Earth: planned route in blue, actual route in red. Some GPS logged data: distance travelled: 58.4 km, total time: 11:31′, paddling time ~ 9:00′, resting time ~ 2:30′, I averaged out only 5.08 km/h over all. Obviously, there’s still lots of things to be improved here!

Another aspect of paddling in tropical weather: the ‘thermal efficiency’ of your body (like any other machines or engines) would degrade badly in the 30 ~ 38°C temperature range, you’ll need lots of water (and food) to keep up the pace, a sunny day could easily use up 3, 4 litters just for drinking (not to include cooking). That could cause a ‘logistical problem’ as a kayak has limited storage capacity, it could be a headache to prepare food and drink rations (among other things) for a 4, 5 days trip, the heavier the load, the slower the boat of course.

Some video scenes of the trip captured with my GoPro camera.

Vũng Tàu is no stranger to me, having visited it many times before. But this time is different, a chance to view the city from another perspective. For many moments, I thought I had quite some illusions of grandeur, the literal, optical meaning 😀, as the sceneries appear as in tilt – shift photography: people, houses, cars, boats, the trees… all appears to be so small under the blue sky, even the mountains do not look really big… A fantastic feeling when you observe the little city of Cap Saint Jacques from the back of waves, some distances off from shore.